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EU welcomes outcome of Zanzibar referendum

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(BRUSSELS) - EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Monday welcomed the outcome of a referendum in Zanzibar, saying a majority vote for a power-sharing government was an "important landmark" in reconciliation.

"The High Representative congratulates the people of Zanzibar on the peaceful conduct and outcome of the referendum which was held on 31 July. The result shows that a clear majority of the electorate supports the creation of a new form of Government," Ashton's spokesman said in a statement.

The people of Zanzibar, which is the semi-autonomous island part of Tanzania, voted Saturday in a poll aimed at installing power-sharing by constitutional means in a bid to end recurrent post-electoral violence.

Two-thirds of the electorate approved the principle, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced, ahead of general elections throughout Tanzania on October 31 which will give the islands a coalition enshrined in the constitution.

"HR Ashton considers that this is an important landmark in the process of reconciliation which should lead to the establishment of a stable environment for promoting long term peace and development in Tanzania," the statement said.

"This result now provides a mandate for the two main political parties on the Isles to pursue their negotiations with a view to forming a Government of National Unity."

The referendum will bring an amendment to the constitution to create two vice-president positions to be split between the parties that come first and second in parliamentary polls.

Ministries will be allocated on a proportional basis.

Rivalry between the main CCM and CUF parties has been bitter and sometimes bloody since the re-introduction of multi-party politics in 1992 but both movements expressed satisfaction Sunday at the "yes" vote's convincing win.

Zanzibar declared independence on January 12, 1964 after a revolution that ended several centuries of rule by Arab sultans.

Three months later, it merged with mainland Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania, but maintained a semi-autonomous government with its own president, constitution, flag and national anthem.

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